Corruption scandals aside (I'm sure I'll have many more occassions to enlighten you on this side of the Polish game) it's been an excellent first half of the season in Ekstraklasa. It seems possible that the old guard may be on the wane and that Poland could see the Wisla/Legia stranglehold on the title broken come the summer.
Currently topping the table are Lech Poznan, finally taking advantage of what is, in Polish terms, a massive home support and giving their fans something to get excited about. It's by no means a foregone conclusion though - only six points seperate the top six sides. Along with the two most successful sides in recent years, Legia and Wisla, a number of pretenders to the crown have emerged and it should be a bracing race for top spot.
One of the "newcomers"are Polonia Warszawa. Currently sitting in third spot they have seemingly recovered from the slump which followed the "Olisadebe years". I have to admit that I have a soft spot for Polonia but this is tempered somewhat by the way in which they have reached their lofty position. You see Polonia gained their place in Ekstraklasa via a takeover Groclin Grodzisk Wielkopolski, effectively buying promotion to the top division. In my very very humble opinion this stinks of franchising at its worst. Polish football seems to be rife with this sort of "MK Dons mentality" and I for one would like to see someone bring a stop to it. Football is not a plaything for rich men that want to big themselves up.
At the other end of the table the situation is no less exciting - a mere six points seperate the bottom seven clubs. A surprise, for me at least, is the performance of Gornik Zabrze. The Silesians currently occupy last place and for the Manchester United of Poland this is something of a shock. Granted, their best years are way behind them but with experienced man Henryk Kasperczak installed as manager, the arrival of Tomasz Hajto and Jerzy Brzeczek at the Ernest Pohl and a rather lucrative sponsorship deal with German insurance firm Allianz, I expected better from them this season. Following speculation in the press that his two most experienced players were turning the dressing room against the manager, Kasperczak has informed both Hajto and Brzeczek that their services are no longer required, something that will no doubt see a number of forwards in Ekstraklasa breathing a sigh of relief. Hopefully the spring round will see Gornik pick up in form as it would be a shame to see a club with such a rich history fall into the obscurity of Division 1.
Speaking of Division 1, the next enthralling blogpost from your new Polish correspondant will look at the financial difficulties facing a number of Division 1 clubs and the real fear that 2009 could see many in the second tier of Polish football cease to exist.